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Sales in 2015 and beyond

ISSUES, CHALLENGES AND
BARRIERS TO SUCCESS
A research guide into the bugbears of a salesperson

An eBook by

Sales in 2015 and beyond: issues, challenges and barriers to success

What

really bothers
salespeople? Why
aren’t they winning
more business?
What’s keeping them
from selling more?

Unfortunately, the answer is not a simple one. The

In this report, we’ll offer insights into the banes, burdens

frustrations, obstacles, and niggles that plague the modern

and bugbears salespeople face on a day-to-day basis.

salesperson are diverse, and more often than not they’re

The findings are presented in this eBook, and should prove

unavoidable. Of course, in order to confront the challenges

a valuable resource for any business leader looking to

facing salespeople, it’s essential to understand what these

correct deficiencies, boost sales, and improve customer

challenges are and how they lead to sub-optimal

relationships.

performance and revenues.
First, it’s important to recognize that no two sales teams
are alike, as the sales profession spans multiple industries
and sectors, and the issues each organization faces vary
according to factors such as the economic health of its
market, its budget for additional staff members, and its
overall technological aptitude.
We’ve done some research, surveying 283 sales pros from
the UK and the US, and have identified the challenges
commonly faced by professionals across organizations of
different sizes, in different areas, and in different trades.

www.sales-i.com

1

Sales in 2015 and beyond: issues, challenges and barriers to success

1.

THE SALESPEOPLE

So, who did we speak to?

What is the size of your company?

Respondents are primarily based in North America (62.9%)

Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) were well-represented,

and the United Kingdom (35.0%). However, within this scope

with 44.9% of respondent companies having under fifty

was a range of companies of different sizes, operating

employees, while organizations with over 250 members

within different industries.

of staff amounted to 30% of those surveyed. The ‘middle’
groups, with 51-100 employees and 101-250 employees,
amounted to 13.8% and 11.3% respectively.

62.9%

USA/Canada

35.0%

UK

2.1%

www.sales-i.com

Rest of the world

44.9%

Less than 50 people

13.8%

51 - 100

11.3%

101 - 250

30.0%

250+

2

Sales in 2015 and beyond: issues, challenges and barriers to success

Which

industry does your
company operate in?

The 283 surveyed individuals, working for an eclectic variety

Industrial

of businesses, provide a more than sufficiently diverse
foundation for the remainder of this report. With this range
of salespeople to draw on – from large corporations to
tiny startups, from builders and car manufacturers to office
suppliers and food companies – we have a far greater idea
of the challenges facing the profession as a whole.

Building
Automotive
Jan/San
Food & drink
Office

www.sales-i.com

17.7%

Automotive

19.4%

Building & construction

9.5%

Food & drink

11.0%

Jan/San

8.1%

Office supplies

34.3%

Industrial supplies

3

Sales in 2015 and beyond: issues, challenges and barriers to success

2.

THEIR BIGGEST DAYTO-DAY CHALLENGES

Sales professionals face a number of challenges on a

Falling sales

day to-day basis, both in customer-facing and internal
capacities. Often, it seems like the job requires employees
to be in several places at once, and the resulting pressure
can be overwhelming for them and detrimental to the
company’s revenue.
So, what do sales professionals worry about the most

Preparation
Sales reports
Upselling
Visibility

before they get out of bed each morning?

What is your biggest daily challenge?

www.sales-i.com

49.5%

Understanding which customers are
falling in sales and new opportunities

6.4%

Preparing for meetings

4.6%

Compiling sales reports

23.0%

Upselling to existing customers

16.6%

Having visibility into what my sales
team is doing

4

Sales in 2015 and beyond: issues, challenges and barriers to success

Are

there any other
challenges that
salespeople face?

Admin

Finding opportunities

General administrative tasks posed a problem for a (not so

Still, this wasn’t the biggest challenge facing our survey

insignificant) minority: 4.6% listed ‘compiling sales reports’

respondents. 49.5% of respondents said their main problem

as their biggest challenge, while 6.4% claimed ‘preparing for

was understanding which customers were falling in sales

meetings’ was theirs. These are tasks quite separate from

and identifying new opportunities, while 23% were troubled

the meat and potatoes of selling, so it’s understandable that

by upselling to existing customers.

professionals might balk at them: they’re time consuming,
mentally draining, and don’t seem to have any direct

These have long been issues for salespeople. While the

correlation with increasing revenue.

traits commonly thought of as essential to success in this
profession are still important, all the personal charm in

Visibility
Many professionals also found transparency to be a key
issue. 16.6% said that visibility into the activities of the sales
team was their most significant daily challenge. Without
insight into the way staff members are dividing their labor,
there’s no means by which to understand their inefficiencies,
productivity (or lack thereof) or areas for improvement.
Often the result of this is, at best, a stagnant sales team and
at worst, one in active decline.

www.sales-i.com

the world won’t keep a neglected customer from going
elsewhere – and it won’t unearth new leads or business
opportunities on its own. Equally, in order to upsell a
product to a regular customer, it is necessary to convince
them that they need it, but some part of them must need it
in the first place.
Sales is often a delicate balance and, if nothing else, our
survey respondents have demonstrated how difficult it is to
get right.

5

Sales in 2015 and beyond: issues, challenges and barriers to success

What

should you and your
team do about it?

Automate admin
Automate admin by using technology. Get rid of time
consuming routine tasks in favor of high-value, customerfacing work.

Track activity
Use analytics tools to track and measure employee activity.
This will provide greater visibility into how your sales team
is spending their time, and will highlight areas in which
productivity may be down.

Track activity
Use customer data to your advantage. Analytics can
identify buying patterns and trends. Understand what your
customers want before they even know they need it.

www.sales-i.com

6

Sales in 2015 and beyond: issues, challenges and barriers to success

3.

OPERATIONAL
HEADACHES

Not all of the difficulties contemporary salespeople face are
so dramatic. While most professionals can easily identify
an issue with lead generation or upselling, problems with
process are often of equal significance – collectively, if not
on their own.

Data entry
Some of these seem like necessary administrative evils.
For example, 17.3% identified issues with manual data
entry, which will have some crossover with the 9.5% who

Frequently, it’s the smaller operational tasks that cause the
most delay and preclude them from superior performance.
On their own, they might seem mildly annoying;
cumulatively, they can have a drastic impact on profits and
workplace productivity.

found trouble with using Excel for reporting and analysis.
With technological solutions widely available, it is not
even necessary to have administrative assistants doing
this work, let alone dedicated sales professionals: their
energies should be concentrated on tasks more relevant to
increasing the company’s bottom line.

Accessing information

17.3%

Manual data entry

9.5%

Using Excel for sales reporting and
analysis

28.3%

Too much information stored across
different systems

understandable that 11.3% have trouble when they can’t

11.3%

Accessing information when I’m out of
the office

Furthermore, 33.6% indicated that their main problem was

But the biggest complications by far are all to do with a lack
of information. Whether you’re hawking beauty products
door-to-door or sealing big B2B deals, sales was, is, and
always will be a mobile profession, and to get the best
results, consultants can’t go in blind. With this in mind, it’s
access information outside of the office.

acquiring timely information to use while selling which can
be borderline crippling for a business’ profit margins. But

33.6%

Getting hold of timely information to
use when selling

even when information is accessible, a lack of consolidation
means that 28.3% are wasting time attempting to retrieve
it from different formats simply because the organization
knows no other way.

www.sales-i.com

7

Sales in 2015 and beyond: issues, challenges and barriers to success

What

should you and your
team do about it?

Remove manual processes
Ditch manual entry. Invest in technological solutions and
save hundreds of man-hours. That’s hundreds more hours
of selling time.

Use one system
Cut down on unnecessary processes by using a single
platform to access all your customer information.

www.sales-i.com

8


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